PRATHER, California (KGPE) – Sierra Unified School District Trustee James Hoak is under fire after filming himself at the capitol during the deadly riot on Jan. 6.
A petition for his removal has collected about 3,000 signatures as of Monday night.
During a school board meeting, more than 400 people tuned into the virtual meeting. Some called for his resignation and others defended his actions.
“Mr. Hoak has an opportunity here and now to step down from this board,” said a parent in the district.
“I’m very proud of him and proud he was showing our kids to stand up for their rights,” said another.
In Facebook live stream videos, now removed, James Hoak was seen standing near the capitol stairs saying “This is what it looks like when you storm the Capitol, and it’s not burning down, yet.”
The videos have been removed but many took screenshots of his posts recorded his videos, some say to give to law enfrocement as part of its investigation into the deadly riot.
“There is a difference between freedom of speech and hate and actual acts of domestic terrorism,” said community organizer Claudia Gonzalez.
Gonzalez started the petition for his removal on the board. She said she has worked with students of color in Merced and heard some of them talking about his posts, fearful for their safety.
“Whether he went to Washington D.C. on his own time as a quote ‘journalist’ the fact is, he went with intent,” said Gonzalez.
Voters elected Hoak in November, during the same election protested by those at the Capitol on Wednesday. He was sworn in, in December.
The mountain community native is a familiar face at protests across the Central Valley. He was also part of the group who confronted Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias at his home in May, about COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place restrictions, though Arias does not represent the area where he lives.
“I have no problem with anyones’ politics. They can do whatever they want with that. But when it comes to leading my children and this district, I am gravely concerned,” said Sierra Unified Parent Jason Gardner.
Parents and teachers who spoke during the meeting pointed to the higher standard that should be upheld for elected officials, especially those working with children.
“I will not read the racist social media posts that Mr. Hoak has made, but I am confident there are no other board members who would make those statements,” said Foothill Elementary School Teacher Eva Burton.
Friends of Hoak, many who were also at the capitol came to his defense.
His father spoke too, disputing allegations his family are white supremesists. He said his son is a good man and encouraged people to get to know him and reach out.
“It’s hard for me to hear these things said about my son, it hurts me,” he said.
Hoak was silent the majority of the meeting, but did answer the question about if he will resign.
“I will be here until 2024. And I will see you at the polls,” Hoak said.